Religious beliefs led to the overthrow of Roe. Other religions suffer from it.

Despite the religiosity of the Supreme Court (which is predominantly Catholic), the United States is not a Christian nation.

It’s overwhelmingly Christian, of course – the latest data from Pew Research (from 2014) estimates that just over 70% of the nation subscribes to Christianity (and about 46% of that population is Evangelical or Catholic, the main voice against abortion). This means that around 30% of the population, more than a quarter of the country, is non-Christian. About two percent of the country is Jewish – and in Judaism the understanding of “when life begins” can be entirely different from the Christian perspective.

The Supreme Court justices made no mention of their personal religious beliefs in the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade several weeks ago, but it’s impossible to argue that it didn’t impact their belief that abortion isn’t constitutionally protected. By ruling on the basis of Christian beliefs, they suppress Jewish beliefs.

Jewish law treats fetuses as full persons once they are born, and its laws prioritize the health of the pregnant person because of this.

A Florida Jewish organization recently sued the state over its abortion ban, and other Jewish activist groups have spoken out about how Dobbs v. Jackson interferes with their freedoms. Strict abortion bans are in contrast to interpretations of Jewish law that mandate abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. By deciding that abortion is no longer protected by the federal government, the Jewish people see a failure to respect their own religious values.

Rabbi Lucy Dinner of Temple Beth Or in Raleigh says that if the fetus harms the pregnant person, tradition regards it as a “pursuer,” as someone who pursues harm against someone else would be called. What constitutes “harm” also varies: it can be simply life and death situations, but it can also be long-term emotional or physical harm to a pregnant person.

“I can’t speak for the entire Jewish community, but I would say that a majority of the Jewish community thinks this is a religious issue for many Jews,” Dinner says, “and To be forced by our government to take a different religious point of view is a violation of the separation between church and state.

Rabbi Jenny Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh is a mother of three. Before carrying her third child to term, she suffered two second-half miscarriages due to what was likely a blood clotting disorder. She says carrying out a high-risk pregnancy was incredibly difficult, and it forced her to rely on her family and congregation for support.

“I can tell you that I have no doubt that for many, many other people, that fourth pregnancy would have broken them,” Solomon says. “I just feel personally from my own experience, that there is no separation between mind, body and spirit, and if somewhere else someone else was in those circumstances and discovered that he could no longer function, that an abortion would be a life-saving measure for this mother.

The word “abortion” does not appear in the Torah; but neither is it in the Bible. And yes, the word “abortion” is not in the Constitution either, but freedom of religion is, which includes non-Christian denominations and the total absence of religion. Solomon is a rabbi of conservative tradition, who seeks to preserve Jewish ritual. She says that even for Orthodox Jews, who tend more to the right, cases where the life of the mother is threatened not only allow abortion: it is encouraged.

The Solomon and Dinner congregations are now looking for ways to support access to abortion in North Carolina. Nationally, organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the National Council of Jewish Women are working to advocate for access to abortion.

“The Christian right does not have a monopoly on faith and morality,” Solomon says. “We also have these things. We have different ways of understanding what a values- and faith-based life looks like, and now this country that we feel so loyal to and part of is actually getting in the way of our religious freedom.

Ruth R. Culp